Sussexsport teams up with Brighton Cougars to grow the women’s basketball game

This year Sussexsport, the University’s sport department, launched a joint initiative with Brighton and Hove’s Basketball club, the Brighton Cougars, to develop the women's and girls’ basketball offer in the Brighton and Hove area.

The initiative would see the Cougars training and competing at Sussexsport’s Sport Centre and, in exchange, talented players from the University’s women’s basketball team were offered the chance to play on the Cougars' national league women’s team – Brighton Basketball.

So far, trail-blazing sport scholarship student Veronika “Ronnie” Marova, originally from the Czech Republic, is the first athlete to play for both teams. Ronnie feels that training with both the University and the Cougars has made a big difference to her performance this year:

“I think my physical performance in terms of fitness and athleticism has improved a lot.

“While playing for the Cougars I became a sports scholar, which opened doors for me, and I have also met lots of interesting people who have helped me reshape my goals.

“I’m very thankful to the Sussexsport department, particularly Terry Cooper and Luke Terrill, and to the national league coach Mat Glasson for this opportunity." 

Next year we are hopeful that more of the team will be at the standard needed to play for the Brighton Cougars’ women’s team. Sussexsport's Deputy Head of Sport Luke Terrill spoke about the importance of developing female athletes at the University:

"The relationship we have built with the Brighton Cougars and their women’s national league team represents an exciting opportunity for the development of women basketball at the University and a great chance to develop the game within the county. We are eagerly anticipating the 2019/20 season."

The joint venture also involved a successful bid from Sport England for £10,000, which was used to subsidise start-up equipment, training costs, transport, kit and much more. The Cougar’s Chairman, and coach at the University of Sussex, Nick Stevens, spoke about the project:

“Quite simply, without the support of University of Sussex, women's national league basketball would not be happening in Sussex. The partnership between Brighton Cougars and the University of Sussex has given the opportunity for women in the local area a chance to showcase their talents on a national stage.

"We've been pleased to welcome Veronika into the squad, she has been an integral part of our success this season, regularly appearing in England Basketball's Performers of the Week.”

Currently in division two in their inaugural year, the Cougars' national women’s team has gone from strength to strength. They finished fourth in the league out of eight teams, with a record of nine wins and five losses.

Travelling regularly, matches have taken the team from Brighton to Cardiff, to Portsmouth, to Hertfordshire, to central London and beyond.

On Saturday (6 April) they played in the national play-offs against Nottingham Trent University, who are at the top of the league with 0 losses. The Brighton Cougars team put up a good fight, losing 61 to 74, but left with their spirits high. Ronnie was the second highest scorer of the match, putting an impressive 12 points on the board.

The Basketball Cougars also have a significant impact on girls’ basketball, at a community level, being the only youth basketball club in Brighton and Hove. Originally founded in 1989, their youth sessions were developed later and were specifically designed for children who are new to basketball. Teams continue to be coached by experienced and qualified staff in a fun and relaxed environment.

For the 2018/19 season the Cougars have 11 local league teams and six national league teams playing competitive basketball and tournaments throughout the south-east region. The Cougars were officially awarded charitable status in 2015, demonstrating the service they provide to the local sporting community.

The University's women's basketball team, for whom Ronnie also plays, were quarter-finalists in the BUCS’ South Eastern Conference Cup and achieved a resounding victory in Varsity 2019 against the University of Brighton. They finished third in the British University and College Sport (BUCS) league.

In future, the new partnership aims to be fully sustainable, with both sides developing the performance of their teams to the betterment of women’s basketball across the county.

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By: Rose Wilmot
Last updated: Friday, 14 June 2019